Cake with a Side of Tears
My first birthday without my mom
I knew September would be hard.
Hard because grief is all-consuming, but anything all-consuming is boring after a while. I’m tired of writing about my grief. I’m sure you’re tired of reading about it. I’m definitely tired of doing it, of living it. Yet I’m only four months in. Four months doesn’t seem like that long. A pregnancy – making a human – takes more than double that time. Death – losing a human – isn’t something you can be over in four months either. And somehow, four months also seems like an eternity. Like I should have moved on to something else more interesting by now.
Hard because I’m filling out all of the back-to-school forms and every time I get to the “emergency contacts” part, I tear up. It’s always been my mom. She has always been one of the few people with whom I entirely trusted my children. If they were sick and my husband and I were stuck at work, we knew we could count on her. That’s gone now, and the ache I feel staring at that line on the form is intense. The void she has left in our family is unfathomable.
Hard because she was always my hurricane buddy. We’d track storms together, going as far back as my childhood, and take turns talking the other one down. We’d make evacuation plans together and call to check on each other if we decided to stay. We’d compare hurricane snacks and share ice chests and portable power banks.
But mostly, overwhelmingly, hard because it’s both her and my birthday month. We’re both Virgos, both sapphire birthstones. She always told me I was the best birthday present she ever got, and every year, I asked her to tell me the story of the night I was born. Every year, I cooked her dinner for her birthday and made her favorite angel food cake with whipped cream and fresh berries. Every year, she watched the kids on my birthday so my husband and I could go out to dinner. Every year she gave me presents that I usually didn’t like – weird itchy socks, patterned rolling pins, heavy ceramic dishes that didn’t match anything else in my kitchen – but which I can’t imagine not receiving. I found a lone ugly sock in my laundry room last week and was briefly paralyzed by what to do. It was a mismatched sock that I wouldn’t have worn even if I’d found its partner. Obviously, I should throw it away. But I couldn’t because it came from her. I ended up tucking it into a laundry basket, putting the decision off to another day, but nothing is easy right now.
Last year, we celebrated our birthdays in a “socially distant” fashion with promises that it would be better this year. But last year was her last birthday.
I’ll still mark her birthday, I think, in a way that feels right for our family: making her same cake, maybe driving out to her favorite spot on the lake, playing a few songs that remind me of her.
But my birthday will be forever changed without her.
Everything feels forever changed without her.
The calendar is flipping forward. The world is moving on. I need to move on, too.
But I think I’ll have to wait … at least until next month.